Author: Craig Calcaterra

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Major League Baseball is opening up a Latin American Headquarters


The press conference for this will be on Monday so that’s when you’ll hear more about it. But this is from the press release I just got:

Major League Baseball will hold a press conference to launch its new Latin American headquarters in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. The office will serve as the central location for MLB initiatives, including education, community affairs and coaching clinics, in addition to tournaments and showcases.

That’s neat. And probably smart. There are a lot of excesses and a lot of lack of oversight in Latin American scouting, both on the sides of players and their representatives and on the side of MLB-affiliated scouts. More direct oversight of this is probably good.

If the Tigers sweep the Royals, the AL Central race is over. I think.


Just messing around with this weekend’s big series between the Royals and the Tigers. I know that no matter what happens the loser of that division has a good shot of getting a Wild Card, but let’s forget about that for the moment. What I’m wondering is if the AL Central race can be put away this weekend, one way or the other.

I’m thinking the only scenario that does that is a Tigers sweep. They’re up by a half game right now. But let’s call it a one game lead for the Tigers since the Royals have to finish a suspended game on Monday with the Indians which they are losing 4-2 in the 10th inning. I guess they could win that still, but let’s play the odds and call it, practically speaking, a loss. That puts the Tigers up by one.

If the Royals sweep, they’ll have a two-game lead in the Central. If the Royals take two of three, it’s tied. If the Tigers take two of three, they have a two-game lead. Obviously a tie in the division come Sunday evening means nothing was decided. A two-game lead with a week to play is not fun, but it’s doable.

But if the Tigers sweep? That’s a four-game lead for Detroit with a week to play. And, historically speaking, that’s hard to overcome. I did some checking of some of the more obvious collapses in recent years and, while there have been some doozies, they have been collapses over weeks, not mere days. At least for the most part. I could not find a specific, seven-day collapses which erased four-game leads.

In 2009 the Tigers were up three games with four to go and lost in a game 163 playoff to the Twins. In 2012 the Rangers were up three and lost the division by 1. The Brewers in 1982 almost did. The Orioles trailed the Brewers by three games with four to play and won the first three of a four game series before falling short. The 1964 Phillies blew a 4.5 game lead in the space of five days, but that wasn’t quite at the end of the season as they were behind the Cardinals for the final six games of the year.

There may be some I’m missing, but even if I am, I think it’s safe to say that a four-game lead with a week to go is really, really darn hard to overcome. So it’s probably safe to say that if the Tigers sweep the Royals this weekend, the division is theirs.

Or it’s safe to say that my powers to jinx are really, really excellent.

The Red Sox, Cubs and Rays employ neurological training to help hitters


A fascinating article in the Wall Street Journal about how three teams — the Red Sox, Cubs and Rays — are using neurological training techniques like video games and other stuff to help hitters get better at recognizing pitches:

Though NeuroScouting’s games vary, most of them depict a ball coming from the pitcher’s mound toward the hitter. Using a laptop or tablet, players are given instructions such as, “Hit the space bar when you see the seams on the ball spinning vertically,” and are scored based on their reaction time and accuracy. The Rays have a leaderboard that shows players which of their teammates fared best on a given drill, like the high-scores screen at the end of an arcade game.

I wonder if anyone puts in vaguely-obscene initials at the leaderboard screen like I used to on the “Mr. Do” machine at Rollhaven skating rink in Flint, Michigan back in 1984. I bet some do.

And four other teams are looking in to such training as well. Baseball trends always work like this — something works for one team and it’s copied by others — so if, say, the Cubs young hitters who came up through the system using this stuff have a lot of success over the next couple of years, expect almost all teams to pick this up.

Well, maybe not the Phillies. But in their case “young hitters” is more of a theoretical than a practical concept.

Geddy Lee’s baseball obsession makes it really hard for me to hate Rush


I mean, I’ll continue to hate Rush, as it’s one of the organizing principles of my life.* But I can’t hate Rush’s lead singer and bass player, Geddy Lee. The guy just seems too genuine. And he love, love, loves baseball.

This video is a few years old, but I hadn’t seen it. It’s about what the guys from Rush do to chill out in their free time. I didn’t watch the Alex and Neil portions of it. I mean, I assume Alex does something bland and unthreatening. I figure Neil is, like, writing a 3,000 page sci-fi epic about some vaguely threatening but possible utopian future run by aliens who use unconventional time signatures as a means of keeping the populace in a drone-like state of order. At least until some hero with the power of music at his side comes and frees them. While riding a griffon maybe? I dunno. I’ll work out the details later.

But Geddy is all about the baseball and collecting memorabilia and he seems like a guy I’d love to hang out with at a Jays game sometime. His portion of the video is here. If you watch it below, skip to the 2:50 mark.


*If you are at all curious about my Rush obsession, know that in my conception of life, they are heroes and I am a supervillain. It’s like a creation myth, really. It’s not even a Joker/Batman or Luthor/Superman thing, as I am sure Rush would not care about me or my existence for a millisecond even if they knew who I was. It’s more like I am Samuel L. Jackson in “Unbreakable” and they are Bruce Willis. It’s probably not even that significant. They are the whale and I am Ahab. And we all know how Ahab met his end.

You see, in the early-to-mid-80s, my older brother became obsessed with Rush. I don’t know why. Someone bought him the “Signals” LP around that time and he just went with it. He purchased every single Rush album to date (on cassette, natch) and listened to them constantly. I will admit, I found some of it catchy. I was but a pre-teen when that all began and one isn’t musically responsible at that age. I could make a mix of Rush songs that I have no trouble with and which I could, even to this day, listen to if I were in the proper mood. The first side of the “Moving Pictures” album is really good. I really dug their first, self-titled album a lot even though (a) Neil Peart wasn’t involved; and (b) even if, in hindsight, it was really just a second rate Zeppelin ripoff. Now that I think about it, actually, Peart not being involved with it, at least lyrically speaking, may make it Rush’s best album. It truly was, in ways all of their other output was not, music for the Working Man. But I digress.

As the 80s wore on, I became aware of more and more Rush fans. And how they did not interact with music in quite the same way other music fans — music fans like I am and like most people are — did. There was more of a scientific appreciation of it than visceral enjoyment. They would talk about the technical aspects of Rush’s performances and its virtuosity, not how the songs related to them and moved them personally. This is understandable, as it’s really hard to find a personal connection to something called “The Temples of Syrinx” Maybe that works for escapist literature, but rock and roll is supposed to be about cars and girls and heartbreak and emotion and stuff. I would later learn that this is a hallmark of all prog rock and its fans, but I didn’t know that then. Rush is probably the most accessible of the 70s prog-rockers, so its fans are the only ones who I saw.

But as time wore on, it moved beyond merely music that was cold and didn’t much connect to me and the fans who loved it. There are Rush fans — a certain segment of them anyway — who really, really have a hard time believing anyone doesn’t love Rush. Just as they’ve approached the music they love with some weird, overly-objective and quantifiable metrics (“check out this crazy time signature!”) they believe that one cannot, logically, not like Rush. Or maybe it’s not about like. Maybe it’s about confusing feelings for objective assessment. “I don’t care for Rush,” I may say. “But Neil Peart is the best technical drummer of all time!” they’d exclaim, as if that should settle the matter.

In college, I met much of the same arguments from a slightly different source. It was 1991 and we were moving quickly out of the hair metal era and into the era of grunge and indie music. I shared dorm rooms with guys who were still holding on to Winger and Bon Jovi and Warrant, however, and their defenses of that stuff were much the same as those you’d hear from Rush partisans. The fidelity of the production and the skill of the guitar solo, etc. Eventually, however, the hair band proponents abandoned that stance and either gave up on Winger entirely or else grounded their love for it in the much, much more defensible “hey, their music is about mindless fun and hedonism, so what?” I mean, say what you want about the tenets of “She’s my Cherry Pie,” Dude, but at least it’s an ethos.

To this day, Rush fans stand by their band on terms unchanged since 1978 (or since whenever their weird older brothers indoctrinated them, probably around the time of “Power Windows”). They will tell you, in objective terms, that you are mistaken for not thinking Rush is the best band in the world. And they don’t have much of a sense of humor about it. In 2004 I went to the Franklin County Common Pleas Clerk of Courts to file a pleading in a lawsuit I was working on. The clerk had at his desk an autographed picture of Neil Peart. I said something to the person I was with about it, the clerk heard me and gave me a very long and very hard time about it all, and even threatened — I think in jest, but I’m not sure — that he’d “lose” my pleading unless I told him I was sorry and I liked Rush. This is what I was reduced to: being bullied — successfully — by a Rush fan. It may have been the lowest moment of my adult life.

So, here I am. Ensconced in my fortified compound on the outskirts of town. Still believing that rock music should be about girls and cars. That, while grand concept albums are something, I’ve never heard anyone walking down the street humming an album. That, no matter how sour, demented bitter and sad it makes me — that even if it leads to my doom — I shall fight the scourge that is Rush and their misguided fans.

Towards thee I roll, thou all-destroying but unconquering prog rock band. To the last I grapple with thee; from hell’s heart I stab at thee; for hate’s sake I spit my last breath at thee.

Oh dear God, I need a drink.